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Time Has Told Me: Syrinx

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Interview with John Mills-Cockell (Syrinx).

I’m reorchestrating, reinstrumentating for string quintet and symphonic percussion… it’s going to be Syrinx brought into the 21st Century.”

John Mills-Cockell

Words: Mark Carry

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A collection of experimental synth music culled from the early 70’s Toronto music scene is beautifully celebrated by the ever-indispensable Brooklyn-based RVNG Intl label on the shape-shifting, genre defying musical document, ‘Tumblers From The Vault (1970-1972)’.

 The band in question are the avant-garde three-piece Syrinx whose wholly unique hybrid of chamber pop and electronic experimentation crafts an utterly timeless journey into the limitless possibilities of music. The dreamy, lo-fi gem ‘Hollywood Dream Trip’ remains as vital and fresh as the day it was recorded. The sprawling epic ‘December Angel’ dumbfounds the listener in its sheer beauty and compelling sound: a piece of music from some future age, unknown and mysterious all at once. Psychedelic flourishes are etched across the more electronic-oriented ‘Ibistix’; the amalgamation of distorted voices and cosmic strings creates a symphony of rapture and transcendence.

Syrinx consisted of composer and keyboardist John Mills-Cockell, saxophonist Doug Pringle, and percussionist Alan Wells. Syrinx’s self-titled debut arrived in 1970, followed in 1971 by ‘Long Lost Relatives’, which is highlighted as the first album on Tumblers From The Vault

A treasure of relics and rarities are beautifully compiled on ‘Long Lost Relics’ featuring several alternative versions (gorgeous solo synthesizer version of ‘Melina’s Torch’ and sparse electric piano demo version of ‘December Angel’). Also featured is the band’s legendary live performance of ‘Stringspace’: a symphonic voyage of complete transcendence as waves of synthesizers, saxophone, congas and strings all meld together forming some of the most resolutely unique and truly enchanting music to have ever ascended into the earth’s atmosphere.

“Tumblers From The Vault (1970-1972)” is out now on RVNG Intl.

https://igetrvng.com/syrinx-tumblers-vault/

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Interview with John Mills-Cockell (Syrinx).

 

First of all, it was such a magical discovery to hear Syrinx for the very first time last year from the exceptional RVNG Intl release ‘Tumblers From The Vault’.

John Mills-Cockell: Yes, everybody seems to be greeting it very well. I mean it’s amazing that given the music is forty-five years old, people are saying ‘Why didn’t we ever know this existed before?’

I’d love for you to take me back to Toronto in the early 70’s and the period when you were making the music? It sounded like it was very natural how you formed together as a trio in the sense that you started as a solo performer before coming cross the other two members?

JMC: I don’t know how much you know about the beginnings of Syrinx but I’d like to tell you about it. Where would I start? I’d been involved in doing electronic music, in fact I gave a class in electronic music at the Royal Conservatory of Music in Toronto and that’s going back to 1967 I guess when my Composition teacher said that he would like me to take care of his class. It was the first time that electronic music had ever been offered to people who weren’t academics, just people off the street as it were and it was a breakthrough moment for the Royal Conservatory of Music. So, that’s where I was coming from and 1967 going into 1968 I formed up with a group called Intersystems. If you look online you’ll see that Intersystems brought out a compilation recording on the Alga Marghen label exactly a year ago. It was an amazing job that the label did; a 135-page book, three 12” discs, it was more or less a record of what we did with Intersystems. I mean it tells a lot of the story of what we were doing at that time; we were like a mixed media group if you like, formed up with Michael Hayden (sculptor), Blake Parker (poet) and Dick Zander (architect) and myself (electronic music composer). During that time we did a number of concerts in the States and in Canada and that gathered us some sort of notoriety I would say because – for want of a better word [laughs] – it was experimental and I think Dadaistic tendency that we had. So Intersytems launched us into the public eye a little bit, we were somehow able to attract a fair amount of press for the things that we did.

And so when Intersystems broke up I was invited to join up with a fairly well-known rock band in Toronto and in Canada called Kensington Market that was being produced by Felix Pappalardi (he was producing Cream and later went on to be in Mountain) and so I formed an alliance with popularity while I was with Kensington Market. So, Kensington Market put out two records – I was on the second one which was produced by Felix – and unfortunately the band broke up shortly after that but it was enough time for me to tour with them and we saw a lot of audiences – mostly in Canada – so when the band broke up I was looking for something to do and that was when I went, as you put it, solo. Up until that point I was never really a solo performer except for when I was presenting little bits of electronic music concerts in and around Toronto. And I went to Ottawa; I worked at the National Arts Centre in Ottawa to compose a score for a play there and hung around there for a couple of months doing that. Then I drove across the country in this Econoline van that I had with a woman and her daughter that I was connected with and we landed in Vancouver and no sooner that when we landed in Vancouver, I went up the coast – to very close to where I live now actually, I’m on Vancouver Island – to a place called Sechelt; I can almost see it from here across the water, it’s very close.

And now, this is where it starts to become the Syrinx story. Alan Wells was one of my students at the Electronic Music class I was telling you about at the Royal Conservatory of Music along with Michael Hayden (who became a member of Intersystems) and Blake Parker (who was a poet in Intersystems). So, Alan [Wells] – who was also in that class – was living in Sechelt living with a small commune of other artists and playing drums [laughs] with them like congas in the park style drumming. And so we worked together for a while and he came back to Vancouver with me after a few weeks of being up in the Eastern Sechelt and I joined up with a band in Vancouver called Hydro-Electric Streetcar and they put me in a rehearsal spot – which was a recording studio also – and Felix Pappalardi (when I was with him in New York), he said “I want you to make a record”.

So here we are, maybe nine months later and I was in a position where I actually could use that resource that Felix had offered to me and so I started recording. And so while I was playing with Hydro-Electric Streetcar we were touring around the province of British Columbia and that was really a lot of fun. I think you have to see to know what that means, it’s an amazing culture here and it’s quite different from the rest of Canada I think and it’s got its own flavour. So I began recording and Alan Wells came in to join me in the studio with his conga drums and as I was recording, he would play along with me and eventually it became like a part of the sound of what I was doing and we recorded all of the tracks for the first Syrinx album there. So this was before Doug Pringle was actually part of the band.

At that point I went back to Toronto – I took the train to Toronto which is a long trip [laughs] – when I arrived in Toronto somebody met me at the train and said “Look I’ve got a gig for you at the Meat and Potatoes Restaurant. Would you like to start playing there tonight?” So we went up to Meat and Potatoes restaurant which is on the fringes of University of Toronto campus and we set up. Bob put us in the front window of this lovely little restaurant that he had – kind of the gathering place for academics, graduate students; ordinary students couldn’t afford to go there – and so here I am wondering what am I ‘gonna do here? [laughs] because I never had any plans of doing any show, as it were. And Doug Pringle shows up – Doug is an old friend of mine from two years back we did a couple of concerts together before Intersystems formed and we went to the same high school and so forth – so there he was and he had his saxophone under his arm and I said “Sure, well why not” and so we did that. After the evening was over it was all pretty much improvised, I mean I had tunes in my head from the things that I did for the Syrinx album and Doug said “So you mind if I come back tomorrow night and sit in and do it again?”

I had the sense you know of what are we doing; I am one of these people who likes to be organized about what I am doing as an artist and we did and it continued like that. We played for a week and by the end of the week we were starting to make arrangements of a couple of the songs of which would become the first Syrinx record (‘Journey Tree’ and ‘AppaloosaPegasus’) and a lot of improvising and we got asked to stay in the restaurant a while longer – we ended up there for a couple of months – and by that time Doug had established a recording studio loft-come residence down on King Street; that became our sort of hangout where I’d set up my gear and we started rehearsing like a real band. In the meantime, I’d taken the recordings that I made in Vancouver and took them to Bernie Finkelstein (who is the manager of Kensington Market). And Bernie as it turned out – I had no idea – he had just started his record label called True North and he put out one record and in fact I don’t think that it was even out when we started, it was just about to be released, by Bruce Cockburn (and so that was True North #1) and he said ‘Let’s put out your recording’ – and we did – and it became True North #2.

In order to finish it, all I had was an eight multi-track one inch tape and said ‘we have to do a down mix’, ‘Ok so since I’m down mixing it and since we’re putting it out on your label Bernie, why don’t we say that we’re forming a band and we’ll get Doug to play with Alan and me? (who we recorded with already in Vancouver) and we’ll make it like a band effort’ and he said ‘It sounds great’. And we found a recording studio – a low-budget recording studio up in North Toronto – and we added Doug to some tracks, you know whatever we had the budget for like one session or whatever. Then I did the down mix and Bernie put it out as the first Syrinx record. The whole thing was done on almost no budget. Felix paid the studio in Vancouver and Bernie paid for Doug to go into the studio in Toronto. And the record came out and amazingly people really took to it, mostly artists at that point. The guy who was the big music retailer in Toronto – his name was Sam Schneiderman – he put it in the front window of his store because it has an amazing cover (if you have seen the cover of the original Syrinx album but it’s a painting of like these weird-looking animals) and it’s just a lovely piece of work from a friend of Intersystems actually called Gerald Zeldin and beautifully designed by Bart Schoales. And so he was proud to put it in the front window and it gave us a little bit of an edge in terms of people becoming familiar with the band. The Toronto artistic community just really took to it: dancers, painters, writers, film-makers; they realized this is something that no one has really ever done before and it gave us just enough of a leg up and we were given the encouragement again from Felix’s company in New York to record a second album.

At the same time we were being asked to do little commissions for the National Ballet we did a couple of pieces for them and this fledgling TV production company came to us who said “Listen we’re doing a public affairs TV series called ‘Here Come the Seventies’ and we’d really like it if you’d do the theme song for it” and so we did. It took a couple of tries; they knew what they wanted and we weren’t quite sure what we were doing [laughs] and so forth, so we went twice into the studio to get what they wanted. And there’s a whole story connected to that; we came back from the first recording – we thought we did pretty good – they said “Well instead of a minor key, maybe it should be something that’s happier and what would you think about doing it faster?” We were like “Oh do we have to?” so we went back into the studio and Doug brought a bottle of wine with him to make it go better because it’s nine o’ clock in the morning in the recording studio which wasn’t quite our style. I said Ok ,so we’re going to take the song; same song as we played before but this time we’ll make the chords all major chords and we’ll play as fast as we can” and that’s what we did. And so that was fine, they were much happier with that. Time went on, a month or two later in our rehearsal studio on King street we were right across the street from a taxi dispatch unit so there’s always cabs sitting outside our rehearsal studio – we are on the third floor, you look down and you see the cabs and you can hear the radios and street cars going by, it was really urban – one day, we hear this song playing [laughs] over the dispatches’ PA, we were like Wow, that’s our song; that’s the theme we recorded for the TV show. And Bernie had gone ahead and put it out as a single and it just got snatched up by radio programmers, they never heard anything like it before so that’s really what got us going. By the time we went in to record the second album we had a single that got behind us and it made things a lot easier. So that was really like the beginning of Syrinx and how we started out.

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The first track I heard of yours – sometime last year – was ‘Hollywood Dream Trip’ and I just couldn’t believe when listening to the compilation how unique and singular the sound of Syrinx are; you really can’t put a time or place on the music.

JMC: Especially with ‘Hollywood Dream Trip’, I can’t tell you like how many people have taken to that song. If you heard the original recordings before we had come out with the first compilation the sound on the first album was not very good and it was pretty lo-fi. We didn’t have any master tapes to work with or anything like that and Matt [Werth], my guy at RVNG Intl in Brooklyn and I worked really hard and also my producer in Toronto whose name is William Blakeney; he did the original restoration of the recordings, particularly for the first Syrinx record, which was really a challenge. We went back and did it probably about eight times and we sent it off. At one point for example, we sent the masters off to a company in the UK to have him work on it and so forth. Gradually it all started sounding clean and you could hear what was actually on the grooves. I mean the wonderful things that you can do with technology that’s been developed for cleaning up sound and just making it sound better.

It was a year ago last October, I visited Matt in New York, we thought we were all ready to release the record – he thought we were ready and I thought we were ready – and it went off to a mastering engineer in Chicago, Bob Weston who is just a magician himself and it came back. So we had a release date like a year earlier than it actually came out and we thought we were ready to go. Nick Storring, the guy who wrote our liner notes for us, phoned Matt and said “You know there’s something that doesn’t sound right about the Long Lost Relatives album” (in other words what is the first album in the compilation) and Matt said “No, no it sounds great!” and Nick said “Just listen to it some more”. And we sent it back to Weston; I thought Nick is crazy [laughs] and Bob Weston goes “Yeah I think he’s right”. And it was like that so Bob did it again and he did a masterful mastering job that’s all I can say and we’re really happy with the sound that we got, particularly for the Long Lost Relics album like the one that has ‘Tillicum’ and ‘Stringspace’ and what have you on it, it’s amazing what they did, really. But it took us another year of working on it to get it all ready after that, a lot of work went into it. I was really impressed I have to say with the way the great care that Matt Werth at RVNG put into it and the same for the art design, which is just like meticulous with what he wanted to put out for people.

As you say, it’s a beautiful document and everything about it is pristine, from the layout and the lovely dicut vinyl package; it has such a special feel to it.

JMC: There is a lot of care that everybody put into it but particularly Matt, the people at the label are fabulous to work with. We were all thrilled with it and I think that there’s someone like you and other people who have heard the record; the response has just been amazing so it’s really been worth it I think.

I’m curious about the second album, which was made very quickly it seems after the first album?

JMC: It’s interesting about that. Time is very elastic [laughs]. You’re reminding me of what happened when we were telling the story of Intersystems (the Alga Marghen release). Hayden and I worked very closely with Emanuele Carcano who is the guy who runs the show there and at one point Emanuele said to me – while we’re halfway through the process – “How on earth did you manage to get so much done in the time that you guys were together?” and it is a mystery to me. And we’ve gone over and over the dates and we thought maybe there is another year in there that we haven’t taken into account in the story and it’s incredible and that’s the elasticity of time.

And so the story with the second Syrinx record… So the first Syrinx record comes out and it’s basically solo synthesizer with some conga drums and a little bit of sax that added a nice dimension if you will, particularly the drumming at that point. We went out, we were rehearsing, we were playing gigs, we played across Canada at that point, the single had come out so it did very well – actually in Western Canada it was number one in the various hit charts in Calgary and Edmonton – we did a tour through the East coast and we started recording the second album; all of this was happening at once. The thing that is amazing I think in the story was so I get a phone call one morning and this would be late 1971 and the person says “John, the recording studio where you’ve been working in had a fire.” We were working in this little recording studio in downtown Toronto called Magic Tracks and everything was destroyed, all our equipment was destroyed in the fire; the master tapes were destroyed [laughs] and it was like “Oh man what are we going to do?” It was just like a disaster. But I don’t know it got us down. The musicians in Toronto got together and put together a benefit for the band and all the bands and all the solo acts got together that were part of the scene and we did a concert down along the waterfront. And this concert went on for like twelve hours or something; everybody played at it and we raised some money, we got enough money that when I got back to my manager (Felix’s partner in New York) and we had $5,000 dollars from the benefit. He said “Don’t worry about it John, we’ll get you new equipment, come down to New York and I’ll set you up.”

I went down to the big record store at the time there, it’s called Manny’s Music and we bought the hot new synthesizer that just came out, the Arp 2500 (what seemed fabulously expensive then to us) and a couple of other keyboards, saxophones, drums and all the things that make up the instrumentation for our band. I had at that time been commissioned by this guy Milton Barnes who is a composer and conductor in Toronto, he said “I want you to write a piece for Syrinx and my orchestra (the Toronto Repertory Ensemble)” which is essentially a string orchestra with percussion that you hear on ‘Stringspace’ on the ‘Long Lost Relatives’ album. And so I was working on that when I went to New York to get new equipment for the band. My father went with me, I think it was the only trip we ever made in our time together; he wanted to come down to see New York and show me around and stuff like that because he did work there sometimes. So he was with me when we got our equipment and he said “So why don’t we just go down to North Carolina and take in some of the weather there?” (because this was March, it was still winter in Toronto) and I said “Well OK, as long as I can work on my score for Milton for Stringspace”, I had all the stuff with me, I had all my manuscripts  and everything I needed and we did. We went down there and we set up [laughs] in a holiday inn on the beach and that’s where I wrote most of the score. We were there for a week and I was just like scribbling like mad. I mean it was only twenty-eight pages of score – it’snot humungus right – and a lot of the music for Stringspace is improvised. Have you seen the video that goes with it with the CBC tape? It’s just a live performance of Stringspace and it’s quite wonderful and that’s what it is, you can tell. The reason I bring it up is that you can tell a lot of the music is improvised. It’s similar to say a Duke Ellington arrangement where parts of it are written and then the soloists will play their bit. You can actually see Milton conducting it and waiting for us to finish [laughs] and he brings the string players back in and we play the next bit, so you understand what I’m trying to say. It was pretty loose.

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And just to jump to the present, we’re going down to play this Moogfest in May. I’m totally delighted, Syrinx has not performed since 1972 and so obviously this is kind of a recreation and I’ve got all different instruments now and I’ve done a lot of different things before coming back to this; different kinds of music and what have you. Again, Matt has set this up for us to play the Moogfest and the other two members of the band; Doug is still living in Toronto – he’s quite successful as a producer of events involving video and music – and Alan passed away seven or eight years ago; I would have loved to have him play with us again. Doug has said that he doesn’t feel physically he can do it as he’s got health issues and so forth. So, basically I want to do this Syrinx material because people have responded so well  to it.

Matt and I have actually been talking about it for almost two years now and Matt was saying “I would like to get an ensemble of musicians together to do ‘Stringspace’. What do you think you can do?” And I said “We’ll do something for the orchestra but it’s going to cost a lot of money, right?” so I can do it for a string quintet plus the percussion so that as we speak is what I’m doing now; I’m reorchestrating , reinstrumentating for string quintet and symphonic percussion. I have a drummer from Montreal who is going to work with us (who is a specialist in hand drums) and somebody to do Doug’s sax work, he’s from Waterloo Ontario and we’re going to meet in Hamilton (which is part of the greater Toronto area) and a recording studio there that I’ve been working in called Grand Avenue Studio so we’re going to rehearse in there and go down to Moogfest with these people.  Doug Pringle’s sound is highly individual – it’s just amazing what he did with the band – so I’ve got all different instruments now and we’ve got different members in Syrinx and we’re going to do Syrinx material and particularly I think with the sax – with me too I’m going to have different instruments – it’s going to be Syrinx brought into the 21st Century.

I’m just so keen to know what it is that we actually come up with because the sax player that we have now, Willem (a Dutch name) and Matt from Montreal (on the drums); we’re not trying to recreate what we did with the Syrinx recordings. I think that would be a mistake and I as a composer and musician now, I’m a different person, you know I’ve gone on forty-five years of musical evolution so I can’t just go back and do what we were doing then and the drummer feels the same way, he’s got a vast vocabulary in terms of the instruments and the styles that he plays. And Willem is a classical player who plays classical style saxophone and he contacted me at one point – even before I knew I was doing this – and said “I’d love to play with you sometime” and so when I knew we were doing Moogfest I just called him up and I said “I’d like to work with you too Willem, I mean we’re not doing classical saxophone, right?” And he said “Well I can do anything, I’ve always been improvising”. So I said if I was to take my primary influence as Albert Ayler; to me his music still sounds like totally contemporary today and the incredible amount of emotion and feeling in Ayler’s music is just a model for me. And so I can’t say to him ‘I want you to copy what Albert Ayler was doing’, it’s like impossible as it’s so highly personal just like how Doug’s playing was highly personal. So it’s going to be a lot of fun and we’re getting a lot of support from both the people at Moogfest and the record label and off we go [laughs]. But I think that the fact we’re doing the same compositions is important. I’m not going to re-arrange everything and we’ll have the string quintet with us as well. I think it’s inevitable because it’s with different individuals now. I can’t improve on some of the things that we did before. There is an essence to that; that all we can do is to respect that and not try to do anything that’s so different that it is not in the spirit of Syrinx.

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On the second Syrinx album, I absolutely love the string arrangements and how they come in and how each musician has their own musical language embedded within it, it all comes together so effortlessly.

JMC: It’s interesting, I mean at that time I’d only done a certain amount of arranging for that kind of instrumentation, it was pretty new to me too. If I were doing it now I know that I would do it differently but I agree with you I think it works really well. If you’re interested, if you compare the two versions of Stringspace that are on the album package, the one that is taken from the TV taping (on the third disc) is I think quite a better performance merely because it is the same musicians but they already played it. So they had done a couple of rehearsals, recorded with us in the studio to do the version that went out on the album and then we went into the CBC studio and did it again. By that time everybody knew the music and had a more complete understanding and feeling for it and there’s amazing things in the performance of that.

You can hear strings sometimes better and sometimes not better, sometimes the keyboard and synthesizer parts get kind of lost – the engineer didn’t know what was coming at him [laughs] – the audio guy (who was recording us) had a score with him but he couldn’t tell which instruments he was hearing sometimes because Doug was all wired up with devices playing and his sax with phasing and wah-wah and I was using slightly different instruments than I was using before. So particularly some of the synth parts got lost and I have to say recording engineers love drums and so Alan did very well – I’m glad – because I had a tendency to  under mix the drums and Alan was just like on fire for the CBC performance and so it worked really well.

So the music of Syrinx was not entirely based on improvization?

JMC: It’s interesting, I mean when we started  and after we did Meat and Potatoes and we got accustomed to each other like how he comes from free jazz and I come from rock and the Conservatory. It’s a pretty rare combination in those days, you couldn’t get rock ‘n’ roll musicians who were conservatory trained very much. And so it gave me a particular kind of feeling for what we were doing. So by the time we were together as Syrinx all of the compositions for the first album were composed. ‘Melina’s Torch’ was actually composed for that theatre piece I mentioned that I did at the National Arts Centre in Ottawa. ‘Journey Tree’ was composed as I was travelling across the country to BC in my Econoline van and so forth. ‘Field Hymn’ was composed while I was in Ottawa as well, in fact ‘Field Hymn’ – that simple little tune – really cemented the relationship between Felix Pappalardi and myself because I was in his apartment over in New York City (he lived just over Central Park) and he said “So show me something”, he had a piano in his apartment there and I played ‘Field Hymn’ for him. It’s just simple major chords and he said “That is amazing. Let’s make a record” and so that’s really where it started, I mean Felix was with me all the way on that. And he helped set up and make the arrangements for the second album because of that, he’s like the guy behind the scenes as it were that really gave me confidence that we were doing something.

And so to go back to the compositions, you’ll notice on the set that there are two versions of ‘Melina’s Torch’: there’s one for the first album and then there is another version that is a solo synthesizer version that I recorded just after the break-up of Syrinx. I moved to London at that point to do some TV and film work there and while I was there my manager – my road manager and equipment guy, Jim Bungard who is now living in the States – one day he just said “Why don’t you play ‘Melina’s Torch’?” and he recorded it and it was just like that. But there is a real clarity, you can tell if you listen to those two songs, they’re both the same composition but the jam in the middle of it is different but it’s clearly the same melody.

When we got working as Syrinx by the time that Doug came into the studio with me in Toronto to get the first album completed, I said to him “OK Doug, you can hear that these are specific melodies that you’re working with here and I want you to learn them” and he said “That’s not what I do!” and I said “Well for this you have to do that” and he did and I have to say what he did I think is phenomenal. I can’t say that he is not a school trained musician, he did his journeyman work learning the basics of music and so forth and he learned a lot in the street just as I did. But he settled down, he said this is the tune for ‘Melina’s Torch’ and this is what I have to play for it and we did all the way through to the second record. When he plays on ‘Aurora Spinray’ (which is the last song on the ‘Long Lost Relatives’ album), his sounds are just phenomenal and his playing has become so precise and at the same time his improvisation, for example in ‘Stringspace’ his solo in ‘Ibistix’ I listen to it today in wonder. And so now I am supposed to be playing this again for Moogfest and I say to Willem, “You better come up with something that has that kind of fire and energy to it” so it’s very interesting what we are doing now.

The second piece on the second album ‘December Angel’ could be my favourite, it’s just amazing how the song develops and it really feels as if it could go on forever.

JMC: Sometimes it did go on forever [laughs]. There is another version of ‘December Angel’ on the 3-record set as well that is just basically electric piano and a little bit of sax and a little bit of drums and it’s really slow and it seems it is going on forever [laughs]. We wanted to put it on the album to show that it really is – just to address your question – a specific composition, you can clearly tell it’s the same piece; it’s in 9/8 time, it has that ostinato in the lower keyboard and that very simple tonal melody on top that holds it all together.But it doesn’t have those eerie kind of loon sound – which is a Canadian bird with a distinctive noise – so Doug and I are trying to imitate the sound of a loon with our instruments [laughs] and I don’t think that is on the demo version that is on the 3 record set. The one song that is closest to being almost made up on the spot is ‘Tillicum’, the theme for ‘Here Come the Seventies’ and I actually wrote something, I had a chord sequence and I gave it to Doug and he just really had fun with it, I mean we barely had a chance to play it like two or three times. We did one rehearsal in the recording studio and then we went back to the recording studio because they said we wanted it faster and then we had to start playing it at concerts, like ‘Oh my God well what did we do?’ [laughs] But I think ‘Ibistix’ is a good example where you couldn’t play that song were it not composed and particularly the string arrangements, I mean they’re very specific, also for ‘December Angel’ and they’re clearly not improvised. With ‘Ibistix’ you go this really simple modal melody and raga-like and we were all really fascinated with south Asian music at that time as well as African music and Alan and Doug were studying Haitian drumming and so forth. So ‘Ibistix’ is clearly in this south Asian raga-like tonality and that is what I was working with. I mean you get into this interesting place for example with understanding music , when is it composed and when is it traditional and when is it improvised? And if you just get musicians who are just jamming – what do they end up doing? – they end up playing 12-bar blues or if they’re jazz musicians, there’s a canon of not that many songs, the same with blues. So you must have specific compositions that you’re working with in order to give it some kind of identity.

“Tumblers From The Vault (1970-1972)” is out now on RVNG Intl.

https://igetrvng.com/syrinx-tumblers-vault/

Written by admin

April 26, 2017 at 7:02 pm

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